I have always found the crucifixion by Diego Vasquez striking because of its simplicity, a simple cross the the figure of Jesus. No matter how much I look at him, it is hard for me to imagine the pain that would have preceded his death. The searing pain of each spike being driven into place. The slow agonizing torture of the inability to breathe. The hours without a moment of relief. And finally the death.
Even as a child this story fascinated me. How could anyone love us so much that his was willing to go through this kind of agony for us. But that is the Gospel. As a little Baptist boy, the first bible verse we memorized was John 3:16 " For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish but have everlasting life."
The is Christianity's understanding of God. God is love. God is a love that is willing to suffer the most excruciating death, so that we humans never have to die. In a sense Jesus was the last to die. For those who believe, as we say in the Eucharistic Prayer, at the end of our earthly life, we sleep. Our bodies sleep, and await the resurrection of the body. Is it still possible to die? Yes. God gives the choice to us. We can choose to die, or we can choose to merely sleep for a time at the end of this life. In Mass we pray for both:
Remember our brothers and sisters who have fallen asleep in the peace of your Christ,and all the dead, whose faith you alone have known.
Today let us take time to reflect on the depth of God's love for each human being he has ever created.